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Why Work with a Behavior Analyst?

Behavior is complicated. It's rarely as simple as 'he's testing you' or 'she just wants control'. Why do you think he's testing you? Does he have a history of testing people? Under what contexts or in which environments does this occur? What is his family history? What are people's responses when he tests them? What does it mean to test you? What does that look like? What is he testing you for? Did you pass?


After an initial interview, behavior analysts will often assess the behavior to identify why the behavior is occurring. Additional assessments may be run, such as preference assessments to find ways to motivate and reinforce the person, and skill assessments to determine social, behavior, and communication skills to improve. The behavior analyst will then write recommendations or a behavior plan in order to improve the behavior.


Improving behavior may mean decreasing an unwanted behavior such as running away, hurting yourself or others, how much sugar is consumed in a day, or how many times you swear in a day. It can also mean increasing behavior such as requesting what you want, cleaning, completing tasks, exercising, and arriving to work or school on-time. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) uses a scientific approach to evaluating, understanding, and changing behavior. ABA is sometimes confused with Discrete Trial Teaching, which is one method of teaching behavior skills. It is also commonly thought of as autism treatment. While ABA is the gold standard for people with autism, ABA helps people of all ages and abilities. Behavior analysts work in a variety of settings (schools, homes, autism clinics, hospitals, government, business offices) with both children and adults, with and without disabilities.


The demand for Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) has grown 1,942% from 2010-2018 (www.bacb.com). When I graduated with my Masters of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis in 2010, there were few job opportunities, especially in the Midwest. School districts were just starting to hire what they called "behavior specialists", but they weren't exactly sure who they wanted to fill that role and what their job description should be.


I am proud to be one of the first BCBAs hired by a school district in the state of MN. Now it's become commonplace for a school district or cooperative to employ at least one BCBA. However, sometimes that role is still filled by someone with a bachelor's degree in psychology, a social worker, a school psychologist, or a teacher.

A BCBA is someone with a graduate degree, has completed specific behavior analytic graduate level coursework, has completed supervised experience, and has passed the BCBA certification exam. BCBAs need to maintain their certification by taking continuing education courses approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.


In addition to education and experience, another key area that sets BCBAs apart is that they follow the Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts. This ethics code outlines responsible conduct, responsibility to clients and colleagues, and safe, appropriate, and effective assessments and interventions. To learn more, or to find a BCBA in your area, visit www.bacb.com.


When you want behavior analyzed right, call a BCBA.

When you want to talk behavior with someone who understands, call a BCBA.

When the behavior is far more complicated than 'he's testing you', call a BCBA.

When you've tried everything and you're at your wits' end, call me. I can help.


Sara Athman, MS, BCBA

Online Behavior Consultant


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